Freshwater under the Oceans

Freshwater under the Oceans

freshwater under the oceans

Some areas of the world have alarming levels of freshwater scarcity. Such locations are known to suffer severe droughts. Some soils that used to be highly fertile have also been reduced to deserts due to the lack of adequate freshwater. However, there is freshwater under the oceans, wells under the sea bed could hold the key to averting a water crisis.

There are freshwater or low salinity water in pockets found in continental shelves near China, Australia, South Africa, and North America. According to researchers, there are at least 500,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater held underneath the ocean floor. This means that while the oceans are known to harbour salty water, they could be a great resource of freshwater which could be used to alleviate the water scarcity crisis.  The half a million cubic kilometers of water is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve already extracted from the planet’s sub-surface in the last hundred years.

These huge aquifers have been in existence for thousands of years.  Rainwater would permeate through the ground in areas that were above sea level.  As the ice caps melted and the sea levels rose some 20,000 years ago these aquifers became covered by oceans of sea water but the freshwater remained trapped underneath protected with layers of silt and clay.

Freshwater wells are quite a common occurrence under the ocean floor. The problem, however, is getting to the water.   The ocean floors can be located miles away from the surface and even if the water could be drilled out without contamination, it would be very difficult and costly.  The environmental impact of such an exercise needs to be assessed alongside other methods of obtaining freshwater such as desalination.

While water scarcity becomes even more of a problem, we are on the constant search for freshwater to keep life sustainable. The United Nations have stated that by 2050, at least 5 billion people could find themselves in areas with water scarcity. However, the fact that there is freshwater trapped in the ocean floor brings hope. The water reservoirs, if we could access them, hold enough water to serve some regions for years to come, decades even.

In the meantime though maybe it’s time for a global “hosepipe” ban?  We all need to stop wasting water.  It’s all too easy to leave the tap running while we brush our teeth or wash our cars when they really don’t need it.  Harvest rainwater for our gardening needs instead of using the garden tap, the plants prefer it.  Lets be aware of our water usage and conserve it, before we are forced to.

References:

Science Daily
UN 
Image courtesy of Newsweek

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